Array types

In PHP, the array type is commonly used to represent three different data structures:


$a = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];

Associative array:

$a = [0 => 'hello', 5 => 'goodbye'];
$b = ['a' => 'AA', 'b' => 'BB', 'c' => 'CC']

Makeshift Structs:

$a = ['name' => 'Psalm', 'type' => 'tool'];

PHP treats all these arrays the same, essentially (though there are some optimisations under the hood for the first case).

Psalm has a few different ways to represent arrays in its type system:

Generic arrays

Psalm uses a syntax borrowed from Java that allows you denote the types of both keys and values:

/** @return array<TKey, TValue> */

You can also specify that an array is non-empty with the special type non-empty-array<TKey, TValue>.

PHPDoc syntax

PHPDoc allows you to specify the type of values a generic array holds with the annotation:

/** @return ValueType[] */

In Psalm this annotation is equivalent to @psalm-return array<array-key, ValueType>.

Generic arrays encompass both associative arrays and lists.


(Psalm 3.6+)

Psalm supports a list type that represents continuous, integer-indexed arrays like ["red", "yellow", "blue"].

A frequent way to create a list is with the $arr[] = notation.

These arrays will return true to array_is_list($arr)(PHP 8.1+) and represent a large percentage of all array usage in PHP applications.

A list type is of the form list<SomeType>, where SomeType is any permitted union type supported by Psalm.

  • list is a subtype of array<int, mixed>
  • list<Foo> is a subtype of array<int, Foo>.

List types show their value in a few ways:

 * @param array<int, string> $arr
function takesArray(array $arr) : void {
  if ($arr) {
     // this index may not be set
    echo $arr[0];

 * @psalm-param list<string> $arr
function takesList(array $arr) : void {
  if ($arr) {
    // list indexes always start from zero,
    // so a non-empty list will have an element here
    echo $arr[0];

takesArray(["hello"]); // this is fine
takesArray([1 => "hello"]); // would trigger bug, without warning

takesList(["hello"]); // this is fine
takesList([1 => "hello"]); // triggers warning in Psalm

Object-like arrays

Psalm supports a special format for arrays where the key offsets are known: object-like arrays, also known as array shapes.

Given an array

["hello", "world", "foo" => new stdClass, 28 => false];

Psalm will type it internally as:

array{0: string, 1: string, foo: stdClass, 28: false}

You can specify types in that format yourself, e.g.

/** @return array{foo: string, bar: int} */

Optional keys can be denoted by a trailing ?, e.g.:

/** @return array{optional?: string, bar: int} */

Callable arrays

An array holding a callable, like PHP's native call_user_func() and friends supports it:


$callable = ['myClass', 'aMethod'];
$callable = [$object, 'aMethod'];


An array which is not allowed to be empty.